Pursuing the American Dream:

Kylie Pickrell

What is the American Dream?

Quite simply, the American Dream involves striking it rich in the United States and providing for one's family. However, it is often idealized as a goal, achieved through hard work and many long hours. Unfortunately, this approach is not viable. In the novel The Great Gatsby, the speech "Greed is Good", the article "Junk Mortgages Under the Microscope", the movie Inside Job, and the life of pop star Miley Cyrus, it is apparent that the true cost of achieving the American Dream is NOT hard work and long hours, but rather, the loss of one's integrity.

Why Integrity?

Did Jay Gatsby achieve the American Dream? Some would say so. Certainly, his 20th century counterparts would say so. However, this dream was not achieved through the means of hard work. Rather, it was achieved through the purchase of "side-street drug-stores", selling "grain alcohol over the counter" (Fitzgerald 133). That is but one example from the novel; let us now look at the movie, Inside Job.

Frederic Mishkin, a professor at Columbia Business School is one of the main interviewee's of the documentary. The very beginning of the documentary discusses the poor conditions of Iceland's economy, which, Mishkin wrote a paper about. The title of the paper? "Financial Stability in Iceland". But that doesn't add up; the documentary suggested that Iceland was in the midst of economic crisis.

"Frederic Mishkin was paid $124,000 by the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce to write this paper" (Inside Job).

Miley Cyrus, perhaps the most talked about celebrity of the last year, has, technically, achieved the American Dream. Making millions of dollars and attaining worldwide fame, she has become a global pop sensation. What most will note, however, is that she is not the same innocent double-life Disney channel star she was a couple years ago. There is no Hannah Montana; there is no integrity in anything she promotes. Miley Cyrus's name is plagued with bad publicity, a new "twerking" fetish, and absolutely repulsive Google images of her in tacky outfits during award show performances. She has thrown away her old identity in favor of the identity of a woman who has alterted her own phyiscal appearance and shown to the world on multiple occasions her body, in an effort to achieve the American Dream and strike it rich.

In all three cases, the subjects cared not for the tasks they performed to achieve the American Dream. They did not care for the effects of their actions. Gatsby cared not that bootlegging was illegal, Mishkin cared not that he was delivering false information, and Cyrus cared not that she was a role-model for many young teens and is now looked at as a wild-child. Ultimately, compromising their own integrity is the cost in achieving their dreams.

Inside Job #4 Movie CLIP - Financial Stability in Iceland (2010) HD

"Greed is Good" and "Junk Mortgages Under the Microscope"

Gordon Gekko, in his speech "Greed is Good", from the 1987 movie Wall Street, is saying simply that. Greed is good.

"Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA" (Gekko).

OK, so maybe greed is good. Maybe, it does work. And maybe, it will save the United States. But does that make greed morally acceptable? It's not a trick question; the answer is no. Greed has not, is not, and never will be moral, it too easily can turn a person into someone who does not value their own integirty or how others look at them in order to get what they want. But it is this lack of integrity, which, according to Gekko, is required to achieve the American Dream.

In "Junk Mortgages Under the Microscope", as discussed in Inside Job, Goldman Sachs issued securities backed by clustered, subprime mortgages. The mortgages were "second mortgages of dubious quality" with little or no documentation, having "less than 1% equity" (Sloan). In addition, the borrowers' financial assertions were not confirmed. However, Goldman went forth with its scheme. Unfortunately, the securities were incorrectly rated: most with AAA ratings. So, S&P and Moody's, the credit rating agencies, were paid larger sums for higher ratings, as we know from Inside Job, and, though Goldman KNEW these securities were backed by junk mortgages, it sold them, knowing that returns were almost guaranteed for Goldman itself, though they were very risky for investors. If that does not scream no integrity, what does? If that does not scream greed, what does?

Let's face it, greed is most likely inherent in all human beings, but not to the scale with which Goldman operated: not to the scale of which Gekko believes it should be apparent. This sort of greed that they all embody does not even know the meaning of integrity let alone embrace it, especially when it comes from a large investment banking company at the risk of individual investors.

Work Cited:

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996. Print.

Inside Job. Dir. Charles Ferguson. Sony, 2010. Film.

Sloan, Allan. "Junk Mortgages Under the Microscope." CNNMoney 16 Oct. 2007. Print.

Wall Street. Dir. Oliver Stone. Twentieth Century Fox, 1987. Film.